Digital Literacies

Researching New Literacies, Learning and Everyday Life

“Unexpected item in the bagging area”

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Oh I so hate it when supermarket staff try and make you check out your own shopping at the supermarket. This is one area of technology I cannot STAND. If you have a bag of golden plums to weigh, they will not have a picture of them to press and the ‘lady’ has to come and help you. If you buy pre-packed stuff, the bar code won’t scan properly. If you pick up something reduced it freaks out. But the worst thing is when you put something in the bag, it starts screaming that ‘there is an unexpected item in the bagging area’ and no matter what you do it keeps freaking. What does it expect anyway? I won’t even begin to tell you what happens if you don’t want to use their cruddy carrier bags but use your own environmentally friendly (and more stylish) bag.

I think I prefer old fashioned shops where you get served; where you don’t have the moral dilemma of all the buy one get one free offers (and the pain of throwing half of it away too); and in general where you don’t have to buy vast quantities. I also like to have a chat with the shopkeepers and they rarely want to say much when they are sitting at the till with a massive queue of people to deal with.

Just one more thing

I wonder though, what technology would improve the shopping experience in supermarkets. Any ideas?

Written by DrJoolz

September 21st, 2011 at 8:22 pm

memes and old folk

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Yesterday my daughter sent me a link to a video on YouTube. I thought it was brilliant and decided to send it to my husband the next day. But he beat me to it and sent me the link this morning. And so did a colleague. It was this:

It really made me laugh and is of course up my street as it showed how people learn to use new technologies – even older people who feel nervous – by just twiddling about with stuff and experimenting. (Actually the guy in this does a bit too much twiddling imo). I remember I accidentally filmed myself when I got a video camera about 12 years ago … it was recording and I did not realise. Can be quite comedic. But anyhow putting this kind of thing on YouTube etc gives us rare insights into how people learn at home . there is a lot of this stuff online – but not always as funny as this (remember the one when the guy slings the Wii controller into the telly?)

But I do also love how these things go viral so quickly – and this couple is very sweet. I think they warmed the hearts of people all over the world and that is a very new thing brought to us courtesy of web 2.0 technologies. Who said social networking was a bad thing? This couple is totally heart warming!

At the same time as Rosa sent me the link to this, she also sent me a link to a meme that really made e laugh. It began with this rather innocuous image here:

It has been spoofed by lots of people here and it has really made me laugh. This is what I think of as a true meme. I have more stuff on memes in this blog – type ‘meme’ in the search box on the right and see more examples.

Written by DrJoolz

September 16th, 2011 at 8:12 pm

No time to be my son (& distributed identities)

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I was telling some friends of mine about the next stage for my Facebook research. One of them was immediately excited about this, saying how much she hates Facebok … ‘I think it’s terrible. Even when he is at home with us, he has to keep up appearances with is friends. They are forever commenting and LOLing. I just wish he could sometimes just relax, be a kid with us and not be forever on call. It’s like he has no time just to be my son.’
A very interesting insight I thought. It made me wonder. I suppose it means he is ‘enacting being a friend ‘ when he is in a context away from his friends. He is ‘doing’ an identity that belongs to another context. But to him, he feels he is with friends when he is on Facebook.

This is Clare after she had taken a photo of me. She emailed the shot to my husband. (Dobbing me in for bad behaviour). So sometimes in real life, you can’t get away from the fact that your behaviour is reflected out elsewhere. These days, we have distributed identities.

Written by DrJoolz

September 8th, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Attempting Ethical Facebook Research

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I am planning the next step in my Facebook research – wanting to look at how female trainee hairdressers ‘do friendship’ through Facebook.

At the hairdressers

One of my all time favourite studies is Jen Coates’ book ‘Women Friends‘. It is a study of language – and how women enact friendship through the language they use with each other. I want to do a similar study but within Facebook – and look also at other ways my research participants enact friendship, e.g. through Facebook updates that include words, images, games and so on. This research will combine my academic interest (you could say passions) in several areas – language, gender and new technologies.

It will also be fun working with hairdressing students and I think that ways in which they negotiate and present their emerging identities as hairdressers will come through the work. I can’t wait. Nothing better than having a good old chit chat with young women. For me to access the girls’ /women’s Facebooks, they will need to let me ‘friend them’ (and I will reciprocate).

I have submitted my ethical review and the first reviewer has already come back to me asking how I will deal with the ethics of other people, additional to my research participants, who will be visible to me online when I am looking at my participants’ pages. I have answered I will be involving groups of friends and will follow their interactions with each other and will not cite or get involved with others. However this is a complicated area – and I am not sure how feasible this will be. I may have to end up asking for additional consent if it becomes to hard to disentangle some of the data.

What it will also mean of course, (and my reviewers have not noticed this) is that my participants will also be able to see all my updates and any contributions that my friends put on my wall. So I guess if and when the research starts I will need to alert my Facebook friends.

I really hope I will get some students wanting to be involved in the project as I think it will be so fun. Oh yes. And a fantastic contribution to research.

Written by DrJoolz

September 2nd, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Ethics and photography

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The OCA (Open College of the Arts) has a most wonderful blog with so many videos that are short, moving and good to look at. This one , without trying to, makes some excellent useful points about ethics and photography.

The Dad Project from Open College of the Arts on Vimeo.

I will definitely be using this when I teach my Image Based Research session to the MA Educational Research students this year.

Written by DrJoolz

August 31st, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Education, Film, academia

Two Films

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For me, films come and go and I so often only remember them very sketchily a week or so later. However I saw Never Let Me Go more than three weeks ago now and I still think about it most days. Similarly I saw Oranges and Sunshine about a fortnight ago and it it haunts me.
I have not yet read Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel but will do before long. Oranges and Sunshine was not a novel but a social-worker’s account (originally published as Empty Cradles) of how up to 150,000 children were deported from the UK to Australia between the 1940s and 1970s. The children, once in Australia were treated very cruelly – often involved in child labour, and often being lied to that their parents were dead. This all seems pretty incredible and more so that no -one seemed to know about it until the mid 80s. It was one of those things that was whispered about by those involved. Why did no -one blow the whistle? Amazing.
Never Let Me Go, on the other hand, a work of fiction, describes the relationship between three children brought up together in a boarding school for cloned children. Their destiny is to become donors of organs until ‘completion’ (ie till they die). The setting seems to be around the 1970s – 1990s. I think maybe because I was at school in the 1970s this seemed so resonant and so real. In some ways it seemed more real than Oranges and Sunshine. Perhaps it was the way most of the setting of the film is totally credible; set in a very authentic past that stayed true to the era throughout. Mixing in fiction with historical ‘reality’ in this way makes the thing ’stand up’.

So much of this weird scenario rang true, especially looked at beside Oranges and Sunshine – which exemplifies how whole scale mistreatment of people can become condoned by those who may at first object. We very quickly turn away from human rights issues when they seem to happen on a grand scale, thinking that is the way it must be. If some people behave as if there is nothing wrong, then others seem to fall in with that way of behaving; it is normalised.

Strangely, these films were not the best acted, nor the best produced films I have seen lately. But they have really penetrated my thoughts in a disturbing way. Each one is so different, one is based on fiction, one on non-fiction. Both are about children and we often see children as a subset of people, who have not got rights yet; who will become people to take account of when they are adults – kids as ‘people in the making’. . Across the world there are groups of people who seem to be seen as subsets of humanity and we do not recognise their rights in the way we should – often to do with where they are born, or when. These films place human rights squarely in the frame and while one may seem surreal, it has very strong roots in the real world.

Written by DrJoolz

August 29th, 2011 at 10:32 am

Posted in Film, everyday life

Performance, Sharing and Display

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I love the way technology insinuates itself into so many areas of our lives. It helps to make everything join up together – making all these connections between people, things, activities , interests.
One example is the website walk, jog, run. My neighbour told me about it. You can use it to plot your running routes so others can follow. But you can read other people’s routes and follow them. You can use the site to hook up with other runners and find out about local events. I did this run designed by someone else. It was quite exciting as I hoped to see the designer of the run – I may have done as I saw a few people jogging along. It makes the whole affair companionable. I like the way I can use this software in such a local way. It is yet another example of how we use the WORLDWIDE web to usually do stuff in our neighbourhood (preferring LOCAL to GLOBAL).. (I have written more about this kind of stuff here ).
Perhaps better still are sites like this one which connects with wearable computers you run with – equipped for example with a GPS and heartrate monitor and so on. It taps into all the obsessions of so many runners (cyclists etc) and allows them to display everything on Facebook – for example. here is another example, where someone can log a run and show all the details of their run, their heartrate and speed etc.

I think it is amazing that some people hate that we are constantly being monitored n the street by cameras, yet others (or maybe the same people) , show the most intimate (I think) details about how their body works, (and more) to all their friends (and more) online. This is not just about tracking our performance, but inviting others to do so as well. Some would say this was showing off, some would say it is about sharing.

More info here. Note the 340++ reviews

Written by DrJoolz

August 21st, 2011 at 10:17 am

What’s New (pussycat)?

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When I first started research into what kids were doing online, it was oh so different then. I seemed to be one of the very few literacy researchers who knew about this weird stuff that the kids were doing – way back in the late 90s. They were keeping ‘online diaries’ and playing games and talking in forums about the software they were playing with. They were building personal websites and then came the explosion that we call Web 2.0. (My first article on this stuff was published in 2003 having been two and a half years in review!!)

I quite liked having the empty playground, where I could run round finding stuff out and leaving new footprints in the new snow that had fallen.


But now lots of research is happening and there is quite a wealth of material to refer to in writing up research data. I am having to read what everyone else is saying about Facebook. And then say what I am saying in the context of that. It all feels overwhelming now that the area is getting so established. What I don’t like … and maybe this is too honest … is the way that old fashioned and somewhat staid ways of writing are now being foisted onto me. To be specific, I am writing for journals who requite me to write in such traditional formats that I feel I am no longer in new territory. I feel like this horrendous structure is being forced onto the research so that it looks like it is about something else. It is very dispiriting re-drafting work in ways you don’t like.

I want it all to still feel new … not fusty.

Written by DrJoolz

August 19th, 2011 at 10:38 am

Posted in Research, facebook, writing

Speak no evil

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Speak no ....

The riots in the UK have rightly kicked up a different kind of storm. Politicians, parents, community leaders – pretty much everyone I know – have all got something to say about the riots. And if you know someone who had their entire home and contents burnt down, (as I do) it is hard to stay level-headed about it all.
However it seems to me very extreme to start talking about banning people from using Social Media, simply because it was used as a vehicle for communication amongst the troublemakers. And this sentence in particular seems senseless to me – where two people who tried to start riots elsewhere – but failed – were imprisoned because of their attempts to incite. It strikes me that the medium is being imbued with a negativity it does not deserve.
Frankly, if someone incites a riot and violence through social media, banning their access to this will not mean they start thinking differently. I go back to my roots. Think of The Tempest, where Caliban says:

You taught me language; and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you
For learning me your language!

Clearly it was not wrong to have taught Caliban language – indeed it is he who has the most beautiful speeches in the play* – but that in teaching people ANYTHING at all, you need also to teach responsibility in its use. Here we fall back nicely … into the arguments for teaching Critical Digital Literacy as a major thread in the school curriculum.

* Lovely speech …

Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

(maybe I am arguing that in thinking about what we should do to prevent riots, we should think of all our looters as if they were Calibans. They are all Potential Poets. ) (Just Joking. I just mean that we should educate our young. )

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August 18th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Online Social Not-Working

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It is really hard to concentrate in the summer. Somehow the more time you have, the longer it takes to do anything. I find myself drifting into Facebook; re-checking emails and … not working on my to do list.

I am supposed to be working on a re-draft of an article about teenagers’ uses of Facebook for Computers and Education … where the two reviewers are asking for different things – contradicting each others’ requests. All very frustrating and all reinforcing what we know … that even with peer-reviews, things are subjective. Writing in academia is pressurised … we are all so aware of the REF . It’s not just about quality it is about Impact and being able to demonstrate that once you have published, that your work is relevant to others.

Writing about Facebook for academic peer-reviewed journals seems to be the antithesis of what Facebook is about. One of the great things about FB is the way it embraces spontaneity; its write-now, publish-now affordance, and the immediate feedback that goes with it.
I like the way online social networking texts are at once ephemeral and permanent. Permanent because the texts stay online … but ephemeral because readers write things intended for the moment – and so they usually won’t get read more than a few days after being written.

So FB distracts me from writing about FB – I am after the immediate gratification it gives me, rather than the three months later, get your writing deconstructed by someone you don’t know.

I am tempted to look for another distraction and to write a book proposal. Cup of Jasmine tea?

Jasmine tea

Written by DrJoolz

August 17th, 2011 at 9:03 am